There’s a “pressing need” for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to safeguard national security through local legislation and law enforcement, said Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council.
He made the call as increasing violence continues in the city, with anti-government protests entering their sixth month.
In an article “To Uphold and Enhance ‘One Country, Two Systems” published on Saturday, Zhang said the absence of local legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law and related executive bodies in Hong Kong has given rise to the emergence of local radical separatist forces, which have become more active in recent years.
The protracted social unrest has shown the influence of separatism and external forces
Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies
According to Article 23, the HKSAR shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition and subversion against the Central People’s Government.
It also requires the SAR government to enact legislation to ban any local political organization from establishing ties with foreign political forces or allowing any foreign political force to conduct political activities in the city.
Hong Kong has seen a growing number of people and organizations openly advocating Hong Kong independence and actively engaged with foreign political forces.
In August, several local activists, including Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Nathan Law Kwun-chung, were reported to have met with Julie Eadeh — a diplomat from the US Consulate General in Hong Kong.
In October, the US House of Representatives passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which calls for annual reviews of the HKSAR’s autonomy and threatens to punish those who “undermine” such autonomy.
Zhang said creating a system and mechanism to protect national security is not only in line with the SAR’s constitutional obligation, but also what Hong Kong needs right now to address the current situation.
Lau Siu-kai — vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies — agreed, saying the protracted social unrest has shown the influence of separatism and external forces.
He said once Hong Kong has completed the legislation under Article 23, there would be a solid legal basis for the SAR government to handle the unrest.
Ng Chau-pei — president of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, the city’s largest labor group — said the absence of Article 23 legislation has created a huge legal loophole for Hong Kong in safeguarding national security.
He pointed out that remarks made by protesters during the turmoil, as well as their behavior, have challenged the bottom line of national security. If Hong Kong again fails to plug the loophole, the city may never restore peace and order, he said.
The Macao Special Administrative Region had completed legislation under Article 23 in 2009, and set up a local commission to safeguard national security last year.
The Macao SAR government proposed in 2016 to add an additional clause to its existing laws governing the election of lawmakers. It stipulated that all candidates must uphold Macao’s Basic Law and support the SAR government.
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